Monday, October 15, 2018

must be nice

1 oz Lustau Amontillado Sherry
1 oz Appleton Estate 12 Year Rum (Appleton Reserve)
1/2 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1/4 oz Fassionola or Grenadine (Grenadine)

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with pineapple leaves, pineapple crescent, lime wheel, cherry, and toy gold coins (mint sprigs and nasturtium flower).
Two Mondays ago, I was desiring a tropical drink to escape the cold drizzle that was rolling over our fair town. Therefore, I decided upon the Must Be Nice created by Kevin Beary at Chicago's Three Dots and a Dash; I had spotted the recipe in the Lustau 2017 competition archives, and it seemed worthy of braving the rain to gather garnishes. Once prepared, my choice of garnish gave forth a mint and peppery floral nose over the drink's cinnamon and grape aromas. Next, grape, lime, and pineapple combined for a fruity sip, and the swallow presented rum, smoky mezcal, and nutty grape with a pineapple and cinnamon finish. Overall, I was impressed at how well the Amontillado, mezcal, and cinnamon trio played out to provide complementary flavors and offer the drink a solid backbone.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

second line season

2 oz Calvados (Boulard VSOP)
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
2 tsp Amaro Montenegro (1/3 oz)
1 tsp Maraschino Liqueur (1/6 oz Luxardo)
2 dash Boker's Bitters (Jerry Thomas Decanter)

Shake with ice, strain into a wine glass half rimmed with sugar, fill with pebbled (crushed) ice, and garnish with 3-4 dried (fresh) apple slices and freshly grated nutmeg.

Two Sundays ago, I went shopping for an apple to properly garnish a cocktail that I had spotted in Punch Drinks called the Second Line Season. The recipe was created by Nick Detrich and Chris Hannah as they prepare to open the Jewel of the South in New Orleans. The original Jewel of the South was the bar at the New Orleans City Exchange on Gravier Street in the American Quarter (just west of the French Quarter) where Joseph Santini invented the Brandy Crusta circa 1852. The new Jewel of the South will be on St. Louis Street near N. Rampart Street in the French Quarter with an eye on preserving bits of history such as this tribute to the Crusta akin to how Detrich and associates Bellocq paid respect to the Cobbler at Bellocq.
The Second Line Season offered up apples accented by woody spice on the nose. Next, the apple continued on into the crisp sip along with lemon notes, and the swallow followed up with more apple, nutty Maraschino, orange, and spice on the swallow.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

parisian sour

2 oz Louis Royer Force 53 Cognac (Camus VS)
3/4 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cane Syrup (Simple Syrup)
1 Egg White

Shake once without ice and once with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with chocolate bitters (Bittermens Molé).
After getting back from a bar shift two Saturdays ago, I wanted to treat myself to a cocktail, so I reached for Sother Teague's I'm Just Here for the the Drinks book. There, I was lured in by the Pisco Sour riff, the Parisian Sour, that subbed in overproof Cognac and blanc vermouth for the pisco. Since I lacked strong Cognac, I opted for a sturdy 80 proof one and balanced that by toning down the sugar content by using simple syrup instead of cane syrup (cane syrup is closer to 2:1 simple). In the glass, the Parisian Sour presented a chocolate and Cognac bouquet in an earthy way. Next, a creamy lemon sip slid into a Cognac and floral-herbal swallow.

Friday, October 12, 2018

sfumato swizzle

1 1/2 oz Sfumato Rabarbaro Amaro
1 oz Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Doctor Bird Jamaican Rum (Smith & Cross)
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
1/2 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil

Build in a Collins glass, fill with crushed ice, swizzle to mix and chill, and garnish with mint and freshly grated nutmeg.

Two Fridays ago, I was reading Reddit's cocktails forum and spotted a curious drink called the Sfumato Swizzle. The recipe was created by Alex P. (a/k/a xxfactory), and it seemed based off of Marco Dionysos' Chartreuse Swizzle. Besides the swap of herbal liqueurs, this recipe inserted Jamaican rum as we did nightly with the Mixoloseum house's Chartreuse Swizzle riff during Tales 2010, and it added crème de banana to perhaps balance the bitterness of the amaro. Overall, I was definitely drawn to the absurdity of the drink, especially since I had been pondering how long it would take me to finish my new purchase of Sfumato that I used it a quarter or half ounce at a time.
The Sfumato Swizzle greeted the senses with mint, woody spice, and a darker aroma from the Sfumato. Next, that darkness continued on into the sip along with the lime and pineapple, and the swallow proffered funky rum along with bitter flavors tempered by tropical banana ones.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

new yorleanian

1 oz Rye Whiskey (Rittenhouse Bonded)
1 oz Laird's Apple Brandy (Laird's Bonded)
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
2 dash Peychaud's Bitters
2 dash Absinthe (1/3 bsp St. George)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry.

When I got back from my trip to Kentucky two Thursdays ago, I was in the mood for a nightcap. Therefore, I selected from my drinks-to-make list a New York-inspired riff on the La Louisiane called the New Yorleanian. The recipe was crafted by Abigail Gullo of the Crescent City's Compere Lapin and was published in a Maxim Magazine article on riffs on New Orleans' classic cocktails. Her concept was inspired by growing up by the apple orchards in Hudson Valley, NY, and the combination reminded me a bit of the Town Crier, Green Street's Picon-less variation on the Creole, and Drink's 1919.
The New Yorleanian greeted the nose with anise, herbal, and apple aromas. Next, apple and grape played on the sip, and the swallow donated rye, apple, and lightly bitter herbal flavors with an anise finish.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

:: knowing people by whom & where they haunt ::

First published on the USBG National blog in July 2018.

For a recent bartender event application, I was asked, “Tell us about one non-industry related book, article, or experience that shaped your world view.” As an avid reader, I wanted to take a literary route, but I slightly panicked since over the last decade or so, I have been reading little besides industry related books to satiate my curiosity and need for furthering my education. Therefore, I thought about the decade before that when I read a lot of fiction instead of my regular dose of nonfiction. I had a few favorite genres that I gravitated towards including Japanese post-war, Beat authors, American gothic, and punk poets. But the one that I honed in on was my affection to French surrealists. I was quite into surrealism back then ranging from reading authors like Bataille and Desnos, watching films such as by Buñuel and Man Ray, and viewing art such as by Remedios Varo and Dalí. My future-wife and I even threw a surrealist New Years Eve party in 2003 replete with parlor games like the Exquisite Corpse, bizarre decorations, and champagne flutes for the toast each with the name of a different period artist or writer emblazoned on it.

It was actually that party that began our household’s accumulation of booze that led me down the road of becoming a professional bartender, and we still have a bottle from that event in our collection, namely Ketel One Citroen, that I bought because it was gift packed with a Cobbler shaker (which has stayed true to this day). Moreover, my deep interest in surrealism bled into some of my later drink names that were dubbed after artwork or movies from Dalí, Soupault, and Buñuel. Instead of focusing in on the bizarre aspects often associated with surrealism, I went with the books on how surrealists saw their world, friends, and city. For this, I went with one of my favorites – Andre Breton’s surrealistic love story Nadja; it is one of the two books that I have gifted to more friends than I can count (the other is a counterculture work by Richard Fariña).

Breton began the tale with the question “Who am I?” and answered it by describing how everything could be learned from whom (and where) he haunts. I have frequently utilized this concept to understand hospitality where a lot of effort is spent figuring out why people go to places and more specifically why they return. While the food and/or drink might be excellent and enough to get people to visit semi-regularly on their own, it is often some combination of bartenders, servers, other guests, mood, and décor that the patrons come back for again and again. When I want to learn more about a person, I often ask where they like to go out and why they like going there. From that, I can gain a lot of insight into their concept of hospitality and even how they might be as a coworker or as my bartender. Is it the warmth of the owners, how the bartenders facilitate the guests talking to each other, or the memory recall of the staff of the last times you were in and what was going on in your life; or is it more because they give you free stuff? Sometimes the reasons are not as easy to describe other than it just feels like home. Maya Angelou said something that captures this emotional connection that makes people come back, declaring, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The book Nadja also contains 44 plates of photos, images, and artwork as physical connections to his story. Likewise, the faces, the drinks, and bars that I have captured in my mind (and in some of my writings and photos) have strong parallels to the emotional power that people and places can have on us. As a bartender, getting the requested food or drink item is the basic labor that is expected of us to make the night acceptable. To elevate the experience into something more memorable and our establishment more haunt-worthy, we have to begin to think past the basics and channel our inner warmth, absurdity, and theatrics. Many of my favorite moments sitting at bars had little to do with what was in my cup but dealt with goofy, compassionate, or extra-social bartenders and the energized guests that they helped develop and foster.

Some of these bartenders have this magic in themselves; perhaps not every waking moment but it seems to be part of their on-switch after clocking in for the shift. Others develop a beautiful synergy and repartee with their coworkers. I have definitely noted that my bar stays full and the tips are higher when I am sharing the stick with a coworker where we bring the best out of the other. Positive energy through joking, banter, and getting the guests involved becomes contagious and promotes patrons’ desire to linger and bask in the mood. Meanwhile, shifts with some coworkers can more banal with the energy being more somber and functional, and there are pairings that have promoted variations along that spectrum. Sometimes the secret to giving the crowd a great energy is to devote energy to making your coworker laugh and feel loved. Things will flow more smoothly once that bond is set for the shift since bartenders and servers seem to do a better job when they are truly enjoying themselves. Similarly in Nadja, Breton pronounced, “Beauty will be convulsive or not at all.” Here, he meant that the wonderful things in life have a strong relationship with passion.

I will not know for a bit whether my answer (which was much shorter than this) satisfied the event’s essay readers, but I enjoyed returning to my literary past and trying to connect it to my present thinking. Not all of our bartending education can be satisfied by reading the greats like Embury, DeVoto, and Wondrich; true, without those tomes, we would be lost and out of touch with history, but there is much to be gleaned from opening up the mind to other genres and finding parallels in life.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

this one goes out...

1 oz Campari
3/4 oz Blanco Tequila (Cimarron)
3/4 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1/2 oz Salers Gentian Liqueur (Suze)
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1 Egg White

Shake once without ice and once with ice, strain into a glass (single old fashioned), and garnish with an orange twist.

Two Sundays ago, I was perusing the ShakeStir archives for an interesting drink that evening. There, I spotted an agave Negroni egg white Sour called This One Goes Out that was perhaps a R.E.M. reference. Given the smokiness of the mezcal and how it parallels the fire references in the song The One I Love and the album Document as a whole (my cassette's cover had "File under Fire" on it), I was further intrigued. The recipe was crafted by Taina Spicer at The Dillinger Room in New Brunswick, NJ, as her Negroni Week 2017 offering.
The This One Goes Out donated an orange oil bouquet over agave and hints of smoke. Next, a creamy lemon and orange sip slid into smoky agave, gentian, and bitter orange on the swallow. Overall, the gentian liqueur complemented the tequila and mezcal rather well as it did in the Terrible Love, the citrus and egg white smoothed over the mix's rough edges, and the combination was indeed more than a simple prop to occupy my time.

Saturday, October 6, 2018


1 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
3/4 oz Blended Scotch (Famous Grouse)
1/4 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil
1/4 oz Honey Syrup

Stir with ice, strain into a Snifter glass with an ice cube, and garnish with oil from a lemon twist.
For a nightcap two Saturdays ago, I reached for Sother Teague's I'm Just Here for the Drinks and selected a smoky number called the Guillotine. The recipe was crafted by Ms. Franky Marshall at Le Boudoir in Brooklyn which has a Marie Anotinette theme; The Gothamist mentioned the cocktail, "There's even a reference to Anotinette's famous execution by beheading in 1793 with the Guillotine, a smokey combination of mezcal and scotch with banana and honey." Once prepared, the Guillotine proffered lemon oil and smoke to the nose. Next, Scotch's barley malt danced with honey on the sip, and the smoky agave paired with Scotch on swallow which led into a banana finish that worked well with the fruity-vegetal notes of the mezcal.

Friday, October 5, 2018

leaving manhattan

2 oz Bourbon (Four Roses)
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/4 oz Crème de Cacao (Tempus Fugit)
1/4 oz Lapsang Souchoung Tea Syrup (*)
2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange twist.
(*) A strong steep of tea mixed in equal parts with sugar. Here, I added half the amount of boiling water as normal, did a 5 minute steep, and only used 1/2 oz of the tea to 1/2 oz sugar.

Two Fridays ago, I was in the mood for a straight spirits drink, and I recalled a Manhattan variation in Gary Regan's revised and updated The Joy of Mixology which seemed appealing. That recipe was the Leaving Manhattan by Joann Spiegel, and the drink netted her first place in the New York City edition of the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience competition in 2012. The Bourbon, vermouth, and minor modifiers reminded me of my 2014 entry to the Boston part of the same contest: Shadows and Tall Trees; while that was not the winner (Woodford dominated the balance that worked well with another whiskey), it was meaningful to me as my first live cocktail competition as a bartender.
In the glass, the Leaving Manhattan greeted the senses with orange, whiskey, smoke, and grape aromas. Next, grape and malt mingled on the sip akin to the average Manhattan, but the swallow took a turn after the Bourbon aspect with a pleasing medley of bitter, chocolate, smoke, and tea tannin notes.